15. Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
Back when Jak was mute and Daxter was more peppy than annoying, this was the action adventure platformer the PS2 desperately needed. Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy doesn't try to get overly fancy with level design, offering the typical snow, lava, and jungle worlds, but they were so eye-pleasing that we barely noticed. With a silky smooth frame rate and a striking use of colour, the kid-friendly aesthetic was no less captivating for adults. The animations were also full of character: We'd argue that the ground pound animation is the best of all time, and Crash Bandicoots trademark spin looked even better on Jak. The sequel's ended up walking a very different path, but Jak and Daxter's debut paved the way for greats like Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper.
14. Gran Turismo 4
The Gran Turismo series is known for its attention to detail, including a mountain of licensed autos, finely tuned race physics, and blisteringly tough license tests. Gran Turismo 4 has over 700 cars to choose from, each a near-perfect representation of their real-life counterpart, and each able to be tuned to perfection.
With stellar looks and fantastically realistic driving for the time, GT4 was a dream come true for motor fans. If you were interested in driving around locations you'd never visit, or driving your dream car around a lap, this game had an ability like no other at the time to take you there.
13. Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King
For years, Dragon Quest was said to be as big in Japan as Final Fantasy was in the states, but publisher Enix made little attempt to advertise (or even release) the series in the west. When Enix merged with Square and shipped Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King, it was the first time many in the US got a taste of what Dragon Quest had to offer. And what a taste it was.
DQ8 told the story of an evil jester, Dhoulmagus, who cast a curse on Trodain castle, turning the king into a troll, the princess into a horse, and the remainder of the inhabitants into plants. "The Hero" is the only one left unharmed, and after being approached by the king, sets off on an old-fashioned JRPG adventure. With amazing, traditional gameplay, wonderful visuals, and a stellar plot (that, admittedly, went on for about 20 hours too long), Dragon Quest 8 ended up being one of the best RPGs on the system. And considering the system was known for its RPGs, that's pretty big.
12. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
By 2003, Prince of Persia was a name barely remembered by most gamers, and after the embarrassing attempt at relevance that was Prince of Persia 3D, it seemed the series was truly dead. But when the franchise creator, Jordan Mechner, returned to the series with the great development team at Ubisoft Montreal, the Prince was reinvigorated. Not only did the reinvented Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time turn puzzle platforming on its head, but it did so with fine storytelling and real imagination.
Starting with the exploration-based platforming gameplay made famous by the Tomb Raider series, PoP took it to a new level of intricacy, as precise, sharp controls made going from wall-run to jump to roll to climb to wall-run a breeze. Even if you were tripped up by the touchy 3D camera, you could easily rewind back 20 seconds or so and give it another shot. This really softened the blow of the trial and error inherent in the genre, and it kept you hooked, sticking around to clear just one more room and the series of challenging jumps that lay within. The entire trilogy was a beautiful, violent, and occasionally heart-wrenching saga.
11. Beyond Good & Evil
A game as ambitious as Beyond Good & Evil should be appreciated by every gamer, even if some of its ambitions fell short. Its playstyle was similar to the Zelda series, and the story followed Jade on her search for answers as a war broke out around her. It dealt with themes that were especially timely in the paranoid, post-9/11 world, as Jade was a photojournalist for an underground network countering the massive propaganda machine of her planet's occupiers -who, it turned out, were secretly in league with their supposed enemies.
Though it got a tad predictable by the end, BG&E put a focus on creativity that few AAA games before it had, and the gameplay backed it up almost all the way. Even if its reach slightly exceeded its grasp, this proved that deeper themes can be tackled by games.
10. Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X stands out not only because it was the first Final Fantasy on PS2 (and its graphics still hold up to scrutiny today), but because it continued the FF tradition of blending equal parts reinvention and tradition in a way that nearly all fans of the series adored. The game had its share of minor missteps which seem almost endearing today (Wakka and Tidus are nobody's favourites, not to mention Blitzball), but its seamless blend of new and old still felt magical.
The beloved Active Time Battle system was transformed into the Conditional Turn-Based Battle system, ditching the real-time aspect in favor of completely strategic turn-based combat that was still no less intense than its predecessors. Add to that Tidus and Yuna's heartbreaking romance and a shocking (if somewhat convoluted) twist near the end, and FFX was truly worthy of bringing the series into a new generation.
9. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal
If any franchise proved that it was possible to stay awesome while pumping out yearly sequels, it was this one. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal continued the bigger, better, more approach established by the previous year's Going Commando, introducing weapons that could now be upgraded four times instead of once, a bigger universe to explore, and the first appearance of Ratchet's creepy robot nemesis, Dr. Nefarious. It also featured a bigger, more friendly role for idiot superhero/villain Captain Qwark, including side-scrolling side missions that took place inside the raygun-toting lunk's comic-book adventures.
Of course, all that stuff is secondary next to the addition that really secured Up Your Arsenals place in history: online play. The actual game modes weren't really anything online shooters hadn't done before, but going head-to-head against other players with Ratchet's weapons, abilities, and level design was a totally unique experience. And, while online play came back in Ratchet: Deadlocked, it was Up Your Arsenal that managed to sustain an online community right up until the servers were finally shut down.
8. God of War 2
After God of War's smash debut in 2005, everyone sort of figured that any sequel would show up on the PS3. No dice. Two years after most of us had counted the PS2 out, God of War 2 came storming in with action that was bigger, bloodier, fiercer and - surprisingly - better looking, with no visible toll taken on the PS2's almost then ancient hardware. God of War 2 also introduced a handful of cool new powers and abilities, with Kratos now able to swing, Indiana Jones-style, from grapple points, and eventually glide using a pair of wings stolen from Icarus. And, like God of War before it, it took us on a thrilling, vicious tear through ancient Greece's most dismemberable monsters, with some of the most satisfyingly gory combat on any console.
Ico's a weirdly haunting game that can provoke strong emotions from those who play it. There's fear, of course - its hard not to get a little creeped out by the smoky phantoms that periodically crawl out of the shadows to menace you - but Ico was also one of the first games to trigger a protective instinct in its players. Many have strong memories of working with a frail girl named Yorda to escape from the sprawling temple.
Ico isn't on this list just because its unusual or emotional, though; it was also an immensely rewarding game. Every twist of the temples crumbling, alien architecture offered new opportunities to experiment and new ways to puzzle out how, exactly, you could help Yorda - who was nowhere near as agile as Ico - get clear of the current obstacle before smoke-monsters showed up to snatch her away. (Also, beating up those monsters with Ico's occasionally fiery club was oddly satisfying). Ico's a true classic, and the fact that it happened so early in the PS2's lifespan was a testament to just how great the following years would be.
Set in feudal Japan with cel-shaded art created in broad strokes, the too beautiful to live Okami tells the tale of wolf god Amaterasu coming to Earth to save it from the rebirth of the wicked ancient gods. The Zelda-inspired gameplay gets a twist as the woodblock art style is infused into the gameplay whenever you pause the action and draw on the screen, painting symbols to use Amaterasu's special abilities. Still a uniquely gorgeous release with the gameplay to back it up, Okami is an adventure we never want to forget.